Planning to serve up a treat on Easter morning? My soft and fruity traditional hot cross buns are something the whole family will love.
These traditional hot cross buns are loaded with spices and fruit. Borrowing on my love of Japanese milk bread they have a light soft texture combined with the familiar sticky glazed exterior. if you’re a bit unsure about working with yeast, this recipe has been thoroughly tested both by hand and with a bread maker, with various flour qualities and different yeast techniques so you can make it with confidence for your Easter celebrations. Without the crosses they make a great brunch option or addition to the picnic hamper all year round
Table of Contents
It’s starting to feel a lot like … Easter
With Easter right around the corner, I might usually be sneaking a pack of traditional fruity hot cross buns into my weekly shop for a morning treat. I’d normally only bake homemade for breakfast on Good Friday but things are anything but usual this year. The celebratory treat has been in short supply along with many other items on our supermarket and bakery shelves.
This Easter we won’t be gathering with friends and extended family. Eater services are cancelled across the country and much of the world, so it’s even more important to keep the normality where we can and savour the connection with loved ones and tradition.
It feels a long way from family at the moment but my sister in law prompted me from New Zealand this week to send over a hot cross bun recipe that would make a special treat for the family on Easter morning. On top of being delicious, it also needs to be able to be put together with what’s in the pantry so I’ve left it flexible with your choice of fruit. It also doesn’t need bread flour, if you have it you can definitely use it but this works out perfectly well just with supermarket brand plain flour.
The version I settled on is based off my spiced fruit bread which is always a popular weekend breakfast but it’s tweaked a little including replacing the water with milk for a softer bun. Japanese milk bread is my favourite, it’s super soft and delicious, and has been a huge inspiration on my bread making over the past year. While this isn’t a typical ‘milk bread’ recipe it does enjoy several of the advantages in flavour and texture.
Taming the yeast
I’ve been baking most of our bread for a couple of years now. Although I only started because I developed a reaction to something used as a preservative in commercial loaves I now love the process and find the kneading and steady pace quite relaxing. You can’t hurry yeast but the flavour and texture of homemade bread are well worth that extra effort.
That said I do understand that if you don’t bake with yeast regularly the idea can be a little daunting.
Firstly I’d recommend making sure you get hold of instant yeast. Although I do still sometimes foam it in the liquid when kneading by hand it is extremely forgiving and can be thrown directly in with the dry ingredients just like you would with a raising agent like baking powder. I’ve made a batch both ways in the last few weeks with no noticable difference in final result.
The only part of leaven bread or baking with yeast that is a bit fussy is the waiting time. It is generally around 90 minutes for the first rise, 45 for the second and then half an hour to bake. When you look at how long bread takes to make most of it doesn’t involve you actually doing anything but you do need to be around at the end of each of the steps.
How to make traditional hot cross buns
While there are yeast-free recipes and Easter muffins, there really is nothing that beats a traditional hot cross bun with its pillowy soft inside, golden glow, packed full of fruit and shimmering in its sticky glaze. While it’s probably fortunate for my hips that the holiday comes just once a year, if I’m going to indulge I want it to be worth it!
There are three main techniques you can follow when making these buns or bread in general and I use all three from time to time, the good news is that this recipe works well with all of them so you can take you pick based on what equipment you have on hand.
The breadmake is going to involve the least amount of time doing anything because you put all the ingredients except the fruit directly into the bowl, set it to make a leaven dough, add the fruit about 20 minutes later when it beeps and then wait. The breadmaker mixes the ingredients, does the kneeding work, the first rise and then punches it down. When it’s done you remove it, shape it into an even shape, cut into 12 even pieces, roll and place on the tray for the final rise before baking.
If you have a breadmaker handy it’s an easy and convenient option with less cleanup and you really don’t lose anything in flavour or texture by doing it that way.
I had a Panasonic one for over a decade which I loved but when I replaced it a few years ago I went with a cheaper version from Kogan, it works fine and looks good in stainless steel but the motor has already slowed and I’ll be going back to this model by Panasonic when it’s time to replace it. I make almost all our bread so it’s an appliance I find worth having, it’s not a necessity for every cook or kitchen.
The bread hook
If your stand mixer has a bread hook attachment that is another option to save some energy and a little mess. You’ll mix it up as if you were doing it by hand and then the hook does the kneading for you while you have a cup of tea. You can mix, process and do the first rise all in the bowl of the mixer so there’s no extra cleanup with this option either.
My CuisineArt stand mixer was a bit of a splurge many years ago now but one I expect to have for a long time to come, they are incredibly durable and a total workhorse, albeit a very pretty one. Together with the dough hook it’s a good option for breadmaking especially if you have the space on your counter to keep it set up as they are quite heavy to lift in and out of the cupboard.
While I have listed this option last it’s not the last resort. I love making bread by hand, there’s a real sense of satisfaction and it’s not difficult. I pop on a podcast or some music for the kneading stage and get to it. It takes about 15 minutes for the initial process to get everything added, mixed and then the 10-minute kneading so it’s not overly time-consuming. You’ll want to thoroughly clean your benchtop before and after kneading but really there is not that much mess either.
Which of the three options you go with really depends on what you have available and what you need to multi-task. If you don’t have a breadmaker or stand mixer with the hook attachment then they aren’t essential, you might be like me and still make it by hand half the time anyway.